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US to become net exporter of energy in 2020 for first time in 67 years


The Energy Department had predicted this would happen, but not this soon

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The U.S. Energy Department has predicted that by next year the United States will be a net exporter of energy for the first time since 1953. It had previously predicted that this would happen, but not until 2022.

What's the story?

The Energy Department's Energy Information Association released a report on Thursday detailing its projections for U.S. energy production and consumption through 2050.

According to the report:

The United States becomes a net energy exporter in 2020 and remains so throughout the projection period as a result of large increases in crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas plant liquids (NGPL) production coupled with slow growth in U.S. energy consumption.

The report said that "[i]ncreasing energy efficiency across end-use sectors keeps U.S. energy consumption relatively flat, even as the U.S. economy continues to expand."

The U.S. is already a net exporter of both natural gas and coal, but will become a net exporter of petroleum liquids after 2020 "as U.S. crude oil production increases and and domestic consumption of petroleum products decreases." U.S. crude oil production is predicted to set new annual records "through 2027."

What else?

From 1975 to 2015, the U.S. oil industry was subjected to an export ban that was put in place during an OPEC-induced oil shortage.

But this change may not be permanent. The EIA predicted that "[n]ear the end of the projection period, the United States returns to being a net importer of petroleum and other liquids on an energy basis as a result of increasing domestic gasoline consumption and falling domestic crude oil production in those years."

The report also showed that the cost of renewable fuels had also decreased, making them "increasingly competitive." These lower costs, and a drop in natural gas prices, have "resulted in lower wholesale electricity prices."

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